TV Article

Chat Rheum

Clinton and Dole are dull, Mike Savage is craven -- In the weekend's political commentary debuts, neither show rises to the occasion, says Ken Tucker

Mike Savage | SAVAGE, INDEED The call-in-show host used his debut on MSNBC to blast immigrants, the U.N., and Martin Scorsese
SAVAGE, INDEED The call-in-show host used his debut on MSNBC to blast immigrants, the U.N., and Martin Scorsese

Clinton and Dole are dull, Mike Savage is craven

The new era of TV commentary began and ended this weekend -- where were you when it happened?

On Saturday, with little fanfare and at the appropriately ignominious hour of 5 p.m., MSNBC premiered a live call-in show hosted by the much-listened-to radio talk-show host Michael Savage. The show was called ''The Savage Nation,'' the same title as a book by Savage that is lodged like a fur ball in the throat of The New York Times best-seller list.

Then last night, ''60 Minutes'' reintroduced its old ''Point/Counterpoint'' segment (although without using that name for it), this time featuring Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. In contrast to ''Savage Nation,'' this was an event promoted with such excessive fanfare that it had already been parodied by ''Saturday Night Live'' the evening before.

Clinton and Dole quibbled politely over a proposed Bush tax cut -- aimed, the former President said in the vague direction of the former senator, ''at the top one percent, like you and me'' -- in the face of ballooning costs of war in Iraq and, noted Clinton, ''rebuilding it'' afterward. Dole responded by saying this was a ''different kind of war,'' and offered, jokingly, to donate his tax savings to a worthy charity, ''maybe even to the Clinton library.'' Since the two were taped separately, the segment lacked any spontaneity, let alone heat or passion.

On ''SNL,'' Darrell Hammond as Clinton and Dan Aykroyd as Dole were a lot more political, as well as livelier. Heck, the cartoon Bob Dole on last night's ''Simpsons'' as part of Mr. Burns' Springfield Republican cabal (it was a big pop-culture weekend for Dole, wasn't it?) was more lifelike than the ''60 Minutes'' ''real''-on-tape Dole. The best you could say about the ''Minutes'' spot was that Clinton and Dole were dull in a civil, articulate way.

Michael Savage, on the other hand, is a nasty, stupid piece of work -- a puffed-up hate-monger, pure and simple-minded. Although his book is marketed as yet another conservative screed against what its subtitle calls ''the liberal assault on our borders, language, and culture,'' it exposes its author as a xenophobe (he refers to ''Turd World immigration''), a homophobe (he decries a ''homosexualized, feminized America''), and a self-proclaimed ''Islamophobe.''

On MSNBC -- which had the gall to run promotional ads during ''Savage Nation'' crowing that it's the channel ''to watch if you really care about news'' -- Savage stacked his call-ins with rabid followers of his radio show, who goaded him to defame U.N. weapons inspectors as ''a bunch of foreign spies'' working against America, and to proclaim that, regarding Iraq, ''We are in World War III,'' but also that ''the U.S. military'' should ''be put on our Southern border'' to prevent illegal aliens from entering America -- not the best deployment of troops if we're fighting World War III, I should think, but then I suspect I think more frequently than Savage does.

Savage, sausaged into a turtleneck encased in a plastic-looking leather jacket, criticized Dan Rather for his Saddam Hussein interview and pronounced Martin Scorsese as ''The Hollywood Idiot of the Week'' because...oh, I dunno: Savage didn't say why, but the director must have said something against looming war.

I would point out to Savage's millions of radio listeners and book-buyers that their man is spineless when it comes to his new employer. He badmouthed Scorsese but showed tape of the right wing's usual whipping boy, Martin Sheen, at an antiwar rally. Gee, y'think he didn't excoriate the star of ''The West Wing'' because Savage's show is on an NBC-owned cable network? I do. And why do you think he dumped on CBS' Rather but didn't repeat what he says in his book -- that MSNBC stands for ''More Snotty Nonsense by Creeps'' and that MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield is ''a slut with a big pair of glasses''?

It's obvious that MSNBC is doing business with Savage because it's desperate to attract viewers, but I wonder if the station will allow Banfield an equal-opportunity, on-air comment about her new colleague. (After all, last night, Fox let ''The Simpsons'' refer to the Fox News Channel as a ''voice of evil.'')

Anyway, this idiot Savage was born Michael Weiner; over the weekend, he proved he should have taken the name Michael Craven -- he calls liberals ''traitors,'' but betrays his own constituency as soon as one of his avowed media enemies offers him airtime and money.

Or as Dan Aykroyd would say: ''Mike, you ignorant slut!''

Originally posted Mar 10, 2003
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